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Culture of Himachal Pradesh

The mountainous state of Himachal Pradesh in Northern India is a multi-regional, multicultural, and multilingual state like most other Indian states. Nestled in the foothills of the mighty Himalayas, Himachal is blessed with some of the most spectacular landscapes. The culture of Himachal Pradesh is extremely rich, which is reflected in the day-to-day lives of the local people. Noted for their colorful dresses and distinguished physical features, the people of Himachal Pradesh exhibit a very warm and friendly nature, and the 'untouched' simplicity about them constitutes an integral part of the beautiful culture of Himachal Pradesh.

Around 90% of the population of Himachal Pradesh comprises Hindus. But in some areas there is a majority of the Buddhist population, owing to the proximity of Himachal Pradesh with Tibet. The main Hindu communities of Himachal are the Brahmins, Rajputs, Kannets, Rathis, and Kolis. The state also boasts of a large tribal population comprising tribes like Gaddis, Kinnauris, Gujjars, Pangawals, and Lahaul. Agriculture is the main form of livelihood in the state, though many people earn a living by rearing goats, sheep, and other cattle.

The culture of Himachal Pradesh is also evident from the languages spoken in the state. Though Hindi is the state language, Pahari is among the main languages that are spoken in the state. It is a deviation of Sanskrit and Prakrit is spoken by many people in Himachal. There are many tribal dialects spoken in Himachal Pradesh including Chambyali, Pangwali,Lahaul, Kinnauri, and others.

The typical houses in Himachal Pradesh are constructed of clay bricks, with roofs being made of slate. In the traditional village houses, the lowest story is used for household cattle, the middle for storing grain, and the top floor forms the living area.

Hinduism is the main religion in Himachal Pradesh. The region is nestled in the lap of the Himalayas, which is the abode of the Hindu God Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Also, there are numerous temples of Shiva and Parvati situated all around the state.

Music and Dance form a very important part of the art and culture of Himachal Pradesh. Both these art forms revolve mainly around religion in Himachal Pradesh. Some of the popular dance forms in the state include Losar Shona Chuksam, Dangi, Gee Dance and Burah dance, Natti, Kharait, Ujagjama, Chadhgebrikar, and Shunto.

Another interesting aspect of the culture and traditions of Himachal Pradesh is the endless succession of fairs and festivals celebrated in the region. The main festivals of Himachal are Holi, Dussehra, and Diwali, but numerous local festivals are also celebrated with great pomp and grandeur.

Himachal Pradesh is also widely renowned for the beautiful handicraft items produced here. The carpets, leather works, shawls, paintings, metalware, woodwork, and paintings of the land are all evocative of the rich culture of Himachal Pradesh. The much-sought-after 'Pashmina Shawl' is one of the most beautiful handicraft products of the state, which tourists can buy during their Himachal Pradesh tour.

Traditional Himachal Pradesh Dresses - The Cultural Identity of Himachal

The traditional dresses of Himachal depict the rich cultural heritage of the state. The ethnic dresses and traditional costumes of Himachal Pradesh are an honor for locals and they mostly wear them during celebrations or functions. The traditional costumes of Himachal Pradesh are mostly handwoven including headgear, trousers, dresses, shawls, and Kurta. The local footwear is also hand-woven mostly. These artistically weaved costumes are known for their vibrant colors

Traditional Himachal Pradesh Dresses of Men

In Himachal Pradesh, the community is divided into mainly two parts – Brahmins and Rajputs. The costumes and dresses are mostly identical among them. However, there are minor differences in the way they dress up.

Rajput Men:

The Rajput men of Himachal Pradesh wear Churidar Pajamas with Long Kurtas. Over Kurta, they wear an overcoat, which is made up of Yak wool. In the highest altitude places of Himachal Pradesh, Yak is very common and clothing is made from Yak wool. These regions experience harsh climatic conditions and clothes made from Yak wool are best for these places as they keep them warm. The men cover their heads with a turban, which is a long cloth. The turbans are mostly colorful and vibrant. Rajput men grow their mustaches as it is a sign of pride for them.

Brahmin Men:

The Brahmin men wear long Kurta over a dhoti as compared to Churidar Pajama wear by Rajputs. Brahmin men also wear a long coat or waistcoat over the kurta. They also tie a turban on their head to cover their head. However, the Brahmin priests wear white-colored dresses often and they also carry a cloth like a towel over their shoulders. Though, at special occasions or festivities, they wear Kurta, pajama, Himachali caps or turbans, and wrap an elegant shawl around themselves as part of the dress.

Traditional Himachal Pradesh Dresses of Women

Like men, women of both castes wear almost identical dresses with minimal differences. In the earlier times, women used to cover their face as well and the purdah system (veil system) prevailed, which was later abolished. There are a few variations in the dresses of women of the different communities of Himachal Pradesh.

Rajputs Women:

This group of Himachali women covers themselves from neck to their feet. They wear long dresses including Kurta on the upper part of the body and skirts like dresses or salwar at the bottom. They also wear Ghagra and Choli or blouses. During the functions and celebrations, they wear a lot of accessories such as bangles, necklaces, and jewelry on their head as well. The other traditional dresses of women in Himachal are Salwar Kameez. They wear a cloth over their head to cover their head. The women wear footwear made up of Yak skin and also some specific grass, which keeps their feet warm in the cold climatic conditions.

Brahmin Women:

Same as Rajput women, the Brahmin women also wear Ghagra and Choli or blouse over their bottom, which may be a long skirt or a trouser. They also wear Salwar Kameez with a dupatta. The clothes they wear during celebrations and festivities are special and are embroidered. Mainly they wear hand-embroidered clothes, which depict the art of the region. On occasions, they wear jewelry that enhances the glory of traditional costumes.

Traditional Jewelry & Ornaments of Himachali Women

The jewelry is an essential part of a dress for Himachali women including Rajputs and Brahmin women. They are worn during special occasions including family functions, weddings, the birth of a child, festivities, and any kind of event. Here are some of the famous ornaments and jewelry of women of Himachal Pradesh:

  • Chaakk - A silver domed-like ornament that they wear on the top of their head.
  • Chiri - This is a forehead ornament, which is similar to Maangtika.
  • Jhumka - This is a type of jewelry, which women wear in their ears and it is a popular type of ornament across the state.
  • Chander Har - This is a type of necklace or a pendant that is put on during special occasions.
  • Toke - Similar to bangles, Toke is much like a band that is worn around the wrist that is never or very rarely removed.
  • Pari - An accessory that is worn around the foot ankle like a small foot necklace or 'payal'.

Traditional Clothing of Himachal Pradesh

The traditional clothes of Himachal comprise headgear and shawls along with the draping and wearing clothes. These clothing are special, which enhance their look along with protecting them from the chilly weather. Some of the popular traditional clothing of Himachal Pradesh which locals wear on a daily basis and on occasions.

  • Pashmina Shawl - This is a distinctive kind of shawl, which is made from the wool of the Pashmina goat. These shawls are very much in demand and also among the most expensive clothing. People wear this exquisite item on special occasions to save themselves from the cold weather.
  • Caps and topis - The caps and topis of Himachal Pradesh are circular in shape and are among locals. This is an item of famous traditional clothing, which men and women wear during occasions and festivities. The caps of Himachal are thick or stiff and are designed to look attractive, especially the front side of the cap. They are made up of various materials such as woolen for winters and cotton for summers. The velvet material caps are also worn by the Himachali people but they are mainly for special occasions. The style of the topi differs from region to region. The most famous among them is Kullu topi. People tend to put flowers in the topi on the front side to enhance the beauty of the caps and their attire.
  • Kullu Shawls - This is one of the popular types of shawls in Himachal Pradesh, which can be found at all the tourist places. These shawls are known for their design and vibrant colors. These shawls are made up of wool of different animals including lamb, yak, and Angora. Handwoven garments and handlooms of Himachal Pradesh are popular all over the world.

Tribal Himachali Dresses

There are numerous tribes in Himachal Pradesh and among them, some of the popular are Pangawalas, Kinnauris, Gaddis, and Gujjars. The spread in the entire state and some of the famous regions where tribal Himachal lived are Lahaul Valley, Spiti Valley, and Kullu Valley. The traditional tribal dresses of Himachal are popular across the country especially topi, jewelry, and shawls.

The tribal women of Himachal Pradesh can be seen ornamented in bulky silver jewelry and they also wear ornaments even on the dress. They mostly dressed in this attire at functions. The tribes of Kullu, Lahaul, Spiti, and Kinnaur Valleys dressed in the same way with heavy ornaments with bright colors. They also cover the head with an attractive big cloth, which is known as Thipu, Patoo, or Dhatu.

The tribesmen of Himachal can be seen wearing shirt-type cloth on the upper part of the body, which is also known as Chola. They Chola over a Sultan, which is similar to trousers. They tie it up with a fat belt called ‘Dora’. These belts are especially handwoven and are attractive.